ABE, ROSE and Midge arrive at the Catskills in the second season of 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.' (Amazon Prime).
(photo credit: AMAZON PRIME)
American television isn’t exactly short on Jewish characters. It may have been a novelty when Rhoda Morgenstern graced screens in The Mary Tyler Moore show in the ‘70s. But since then we’ve witnessed Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld, Fran Fine on The Nanny, Ross and Monica on Friends, Ari Gold on Entourage, Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory and oh so many more.
But it’s still rare to see a show put the character’s Jewish identity as front and center in every episode as the Amazon Prime original show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The first season of the series opened with Yom Kippur, drifted through jokes about gefilte fish and featured a resounding rendition of Lecha Dodi at Friday night services.
And happily enough, the show’s second season – which hit Amazon in full in early December – keeps up a steady flow of Jewish moments and occasions. Abe and Rose Weisman, Moish and Shirley Maisel, and of course Midge and Joel are always consistently, unabashedly Jewish.
Here are five most Jewish-infused scenes in season two (which were hard to narrow down). Some spoilers ahead.
1. Yom Kippur
It’s the most important day on the Jewish calendar. And, just like the first season, Yom Kippur gets prominent placement this time around as well. Many Jewish viewers could probably relate to the bickering between the Maisels and the Weismans over sitting during the Neila service.
“We are the same age, and I’m standing,” says Abe Weisman.
“Well good for you,” retorts Moish. “You get to be king of the Jews. How’d that work out for the last guy?”
Though nothing is more relatable than when the shofar blast sounds, and the hundreds of members of the congregation scramble for food.
“God, I would kill for the hole of the bagel right about now!” shouts Moish.
2. Tisha B’av
Sure, a fair amount of TV shows have scenes set on Yom Kippur. But almost none of them have episodes centered on the fast of Tisha B’av. That’s what makes the scenes of the Weismans and Maisels in the Catskills on the saddest day of the year all the more intriguing. Of course, true to form, Astrid – the Maisel’s convert daughter-in-law – is the only one actually fasting.
“It’s a day in remembrance of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, but I guess no one else gives a shit,” she tells the group as they chow down on breakfast. “These were important f*cking temples.”
Later, Astrid – and the rabbi – are the only ones attending the traditional Kinnot services while everyone else in the Catskills enjoys their day as usual. Rose comes to find her, and joins her sitting on the floor, leading to this hilarious comment from Astrid: “The rabbi was going to cancel when he saw it was just me, but I cried really hard, so he stayed.”
3. The Maisel family finances
Moish and Shirley’s garment business might not be doing very well. Or maybe it is. With the way they keep their books it’s hard to tell – even for the accountant.
“At first, I thought it was in Hebrew, but then I realized parts are in Yiddish,” she says. “And this is ancient Aramaic, which has been a dead language for 2,000 years!”
The Maisels end up at the bank to ask for a loan, where Moish loudly and crudely – and uncomfortably stereotypically – complains the whole time.
“It’s so open, so flaunting, so gentile,” he shouts. “Jews use the bank, too, pop,” Joel retorts. “Show me one. Hey, you a Jew?”
When the bank manager finally returns (“Just making sure all the I’s are dotted here.” “Only a goy dots the ‘I’s.”) Shirley demands to know: “Is there gonna be another Great Depression soon? Is that something you can tell us?”
“If I could, I’d be the president of the bank or the United States.”
“Step on enough Jews, you’ll get there,” Moish declares.
4. Midge’s wedding planning
The indefatigable Midge wants to help her Catholic friend and coworker get the wedding of her dreams. Or at least, not her nightmares. So Midge heads down to the church to appeal to the priest for a nicer room.
“Oh, I’ve known Mary all her life,”says the priest. “I baptized her when she was just a week old.”
“Ah, well, I’m Jewish,” Midge replies. “When somebody dunks us in water, we call a lawyer.”
After not getting anywhere with the priest, Midge decides to lay on the guilt, implying Mary’s fiancée Bill is ailing.
“Our brave Bill? I’d suggest we say a prayer for him now, but your prayers and mine, they differ,” she says. “Mine would be Mishebeirach. Mishebeirach avoteinu, Avraham, Yitzhak v’Yaakov,” she dutifully recites in the basement of a Catholic church. “You’d like a lot of our stuff, father. We’ve got some real barnburners.”
Later – after succeeding with the father – she wants to convince Mary to let her be the wedding planner for the occasion.
“What you need is experience and I have experience,” she proclaims. “The marriage didn’t stick, but my reception was unforgettable. It got a write-up in The Jewish Daily Forward – in Yiddish, so it didn’t get a wide readership, but the picture was sensational.”
5. Matchmaker, matchmaker
Speaking of weddings, talk of matchmaking, marriage and babies are always front and center in Mrs. Maisel – and no more so than in the Catskills. The season at the Steiner Resort begins with a blessing: “Let’s wish all our newlyweds mazel tov, yes? Some of whom met right here at Steiner Mountain Resort and made a blessed, lifelong commitment. To all our happy couples, may you have life, luck, and lots of little Steinerites!”
Of course, there’s always plenty of gossip as well, like when a group of women wonder “What happened to Arnold?” “He got married to a Catholic. Works in the Hamptons now shucking oysters.” Who was Arnold? “He was our cantor.”
Rose spends much of her time trying to set up her daughter with a young man named Benjamin, leaving Midge to approach things head-on.
“We have to do something together to satisfy my mother’s insatiable desire for us to meet before I tie her to a concrete post and throw her in the lake,” she tells him. “Our mothers have been scheming to set us up for days, and it will not stop until they see us doing something together. So we’ll do something. Tell them we gave it a shot, nothing came of it, and I can get back to my life.”
Later, when Midge and Benjamin are actually seeing each other back in Manhattan, she runs into fellow comedian Lenny Bruce, who is thrilled by their relationship.
“You’re kidding. You went to the Catskills and bagged yourself a doctor? Your parents must be kvelling,” he proclaims.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>